An Israeli hospital has launched a program to train female Palestinian healthcare professionals to provide remote care for pregnant women in the Hebron area in the West Bank.
Under the Sheba Medical Center’s OB-GYN Beyond initiative, announced on Tuesday, Palestinian healthcare workers were trained to use telehealth technologies that will enable them to remotely monitor the health of both the mothers and their fetuses.
Gynecologists, midwives, nurses, a pediatrician, a nutritionist, a physical therapist and a psychologist all received training in the program and will have ongoing clinical support on a bimonthly basis from Sheba, the medical center said in a statement.
Video released by the hospital showed that at least some of the training was in English.
The program is being run in collaboration with Project Rozana, which brings Palestinian patients from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip to Israeli hospitals, as well as providing training for Palestinian medical workers.
The organization said the initiative will mean that women who otherwise may struggle to gain access to prenatal healthcare will be able to get the care they need.
“Enabling Palestinians to provide healthcare in their remote communities lays the groundwork for an empowered people,” said Ronit Zimmer, executive director of Project Rozana. “The training at Sheba will enable local healthcare workers to operate virtual clinics in remote areas, eliminating many logistical, bureaucratic, and security obstacles for rural residents seeking quality healthcare.”
In a statement, the director of the OB-GYN Beyond program said he hoped that the initiative would improve health outcomes for pregnant Palestinian women.
“Our goal at OB-GYN Beyond is to provide women with the medical care they need, wherever they are located,” said Dr. Avi Tsur, director of the Women’s Health Innovation Center at Sheba Medical Center. “Telemedicine allows us to bridge geographical, political and cultural gaps in the shared vision of optimal health outcomes. We are excited to work with Project Rozana in achieving this goal.”
Most international aid organizations do not separate their West Bank and Gaza Strip statistics for mother and infant healthcare studies, despite the fact that the two areas are under totally separate systems.
However, according to data from 2014, the most recent year published by United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), while the mortality rate for pregnant women in the West Bank and Gaza Strip has fallen, women are still at high risk of complications due to overstretched healthcare facilities, poverty and a lack of access to nutritious food, as well as the impact of the ongoing conflict.
Data from the World Bank shows that the vast majority of Palestinian women in the West Bank and Gaza — 99 percent — do receive at least some form of prenatal care.
The Sheba Medical Center announced the initiative to establish the remote ob-gyn unit ahead of the arrival in Israel and the West Bank of US President Joe Biden.
Biden is expected to announce increased funding for Palestinian healthcare programs during a Friday visit to the Augusta Victoria Hospital in East Jerusalem.